In honor of May Day – the world’s only surviving DPRK prison camp escapee

Workers of the World, Unite!

In honor of International World Worker’s day, I’d like to introduce you to Shin Dong-huyk, the only person (as far as we know) to survive an escape from the labor camps run by the Korean Worker’s Party:

He was born into a life of enslavement and torture inside Camp 14, where he was starved, beaten and forced to watch the executions of his mother and brother.

He existed within the camp’s concrete walls, which had no running water or furniture, until aged 23, when he escaped. He spent one month on the run before sneaking over the border into China, and eventually reaching the safety of the South Korean embassy.

… Six years on from his escape, Shin — now based in Seoul — can’t describe the worst thing about life in the camps. “Every single day was the worst possible. You live every moment under the intense fear of being beaten and the guards fault every single movement,” he recalls.

Often, the key to survival was looking after number one. Blaine Harden, the author who transcribed Shin’s story, knew his mother and brother had been executed but wasn’t sure why. During conversations, Shin referred to himself as a worthless individual and a snitch. Eventually, Shin revealed the terrible truth: he was responsible.

Aged 14, Shin overheard them discussing plans to escape. Institutionalized from birth and in exchange for food and fewer beatings, he told a school teacher. He describes feeling no emotion as he watched his mother being hanged and his brother shot — he’d been brought up to believe rules must be obeyed.

Prisoners go to desperate lengths for food: eating rats or eating their own vomit to alleviate hunger. “Everything we ate was horrendous,” says Shin. “But the worst thing was corn kernels picked out of cow dung.”

Shin was born in a labor camp and destined to live there his entire life, as the result of a teaching of Kim Il Sung: “enemies of class, whoever they are, their seed must be eliminated through three generations.”  Had Shin been chosen by camp officials as the recipient of a ‘reward marriage’, his children and grandchildren would also have been forced to spend their lives in a camp.

You’ll need to read the rest of this disturbing piece to learn how he escaped, how he is still dealing with the psychological scars of his imprisonment and torture, and how even the impoverished lives of “free” North Korean peasants seemed like “paradise” to him.

And the next time you see an Occupy protest or other left-wing event sponsored by International ANSWER or the World Worker’s Party, remember that these outfits stand in solidarity with the Korean Workers Party.

(Link to original story added.  I apologize for this oversight in my original post.)

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